Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Changing Eid Traditions

Published August 13, 2013 - Muscat Daily

As I flew across three continents on the last day of Ramadan for a much needed month-long holiday with my family, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of guilt at not being home in Salalah for Eid al Fitr. It is probably safe to assume that many Omanis feel the same way. More and more families I know of are going away for Eid or simply refusing to partake in endless week-long Eid activities.
Eid traditions are very strong in Muslim communities around the world, and Dhofar is no exception. Growing up, the last few days of Ramadan always involved a frenzy of activity in preparation for Eid. My mother and I would bake hundreds of cookies and sweets, stock up on the best Halwa, prepare the house for hundreds of guests, and make a list of all the relatives that we would have to visit.
During my childhood, the night of the moon-sighting at the end of Ramadan was a big deal. We would gather around the television after iftar and wait for the Omani moon-sighting committee to tell us whether Eid was the next day or not. If Eid was declared, the announcement would be followed by several hours of intense activity and majlis-preparation. If the moon wasn’t sighted, we would breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to an extra day of fasting and more time to prepare.
On the morning of Eid the men of the family would head off to the mosque after dawn for Eid prayers while the females frantically prepared the majlis for the first envoy of guests who were bound to start showing up at eight o’clock in the morning. Traditional Eid songs would be playing on the radio or on television. As a child, Eid meant gifts, new clothes, sweets, and small change that is handed out to children in the form of brand new 100bz notes.
The first three days of Eid involved non-stop visiting with relatives and friends. The days that followed were usually a bit easier. Nevertheless, the visiting and catching up with relatives did go on for at least a week. In other words, Eid was a big deal
Then came the Internet and cellphones and life in Oman began to change more and more rapidly. Keeping up with Eid traditions and hundreds of relatives became overwhelming and no longer feasible. The number of guests has dwindled as people have become busy with their own lives.
For an introvert like me, I still love to spend the days before Eid baking for guests but having to be on guest-duty for at least three days just doesn’t entice me anymore. Furthermore, Eid al Adha is only two months away. I’m ready to make an effort with Eid traditions, but at the moment I think one Eid a year is enough for me. As selfish as it may seem, I’d much rather use my time off to travel and relax. Staying at home without partaking in Eid activities is just not an option in Oman at the moment.
Thinking of all the Eid traditions and special memories that helped to shape my childhood in Salalah can make me feel slightly nostalgic but not for long. I’ve accepted the fact that life changes and so do traditions. So, from the back patio of my holiday hideaway I tip my mug of coffee to you and hope you enjoyed your holidays. Back to my pile of vacation reading!

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